The foreign policy of India is under the toughest test in recent years due to a political crisis in the Maldives which is better known for its picturesque travel destinations.
Armed troops have been requested to be sent to the island nation from India by the former leader of the Muslim-majority nation that is under emergency rule at present. This region in Asia is one where China has been exerting and attempting to increase its influence and the decision that the Indian government takes would determine the strategy that it wants to follow in this region to lead in a region.
“If India cannot even safeguard its primary interests so close to its mainland, then it can hardly be trusted to become a net security provider for the wider region,” Rumel Dahiya, a retired Indian army brigadier, said in a recent note published by the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, a New Delhi-based think tank.
There has been a steady decline in the rule of law in Maldives ever since the coronation to power of the authoritarian President Abdulla Yameen in 2013. And last week, things boiled out of control after high ranking officials of the judiciary that included Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were imprisoned by Yameen.
This was the time that India was asked to help militarily by former leader Mohamed Nasheed who is credited to have ushered in a reign of democracy in the island country. While appealing to Washington to stop all trading with the current regime through American banks, Nasheed used the Twitter to request India to send over an envoy along with Indian military.
On issues of security and trade, Maldives, like most of the other South East Asian countries, depends on India which is the most dominating power in the region. A coup in Maldives was earlier foiled by New Delhi through military intervention which has led many to expect India, as a responsibility, to safeguard Maldivian politics.
Dahiya said that “the stakes are the highest for India.”
However, factors like Beijing and the Islamic State would decide the decision that would be taken by New Delhi.
In recent years, Yemen has been getting close to Beijing in a detour from its historic dependency on India. And there has bene heavy investments in South Asia by China for the Belt and Road project, which includes infrastructure construction in the Maldives.
Here can now be increased Chinese political influence, many fear, given the investment stakes of the country in Maldives.
“From Beijing’s point of view, the Maldives could offer a critical naval port and air base to help safeguard these important sea lines of communication,” political intelligence firm Stratfor said in a recent note.
Additionally, religious extremism can be fueled by the military presence of India in Maldives. An ultra-conservative ideology of Salafism, an Islamic movement is dominant now in Maldives after shunning the years old moderate Islamic stand. It is alleged that the number of foreign fighters supplied from the country at present to terror outfits in Syria and Iraq is the highest in terms per capital in South Asia.
“Any intervention by India can be spun into an anti-Islamic rhetoric in the island, by interests inimical to Indian influence in the Indian Ocean,” New Delhi-based research group Observer Research Foundation said in a recent note.
“Yameen [knows] this far too well, and might just be waiting for India to take the misstep — it would help his cause in cementing his role as a defender and protector of the faith.”
(Adapted from CNBC.com)